SECOND-HALF SURGE 

New Zealand have taken over from South Africa at the top of The Rugby Championship after surviving a scare against Argentina in New Plymouth.

A fly-half masterclass from Nicolas Sanchez, in contrast to that of his opposite number Beauden Barrett, and a monstrous 53-metre effort from the boot of Emiliano Boffelli, conspired to hand Argentina a 16-15 lead at the break.

The All Blacks managed three first-half tries through Nehe Milner-Skudder, on his return to the All Black ranks after almost two years out of the side, Anton Lienert-Brown and Israel Dagg but Barrett was unsuccessful with all three conversions.

Boosted by Sanchez’s try on the stroke of half-time, Argentina increased their lead to 22-15 at the start of the second half when Boffelli landed his second penalty and Sanchez added another while New Zealand were down to 14 men after Barrett was sent to the sin-bin.

But, as they so often do, the All Blacks stepped up several gears in the latter stages, back-row Vaea Fifita sparking the second-half surge with a brilliant individual try from 45 metres out. Lima Sopoaga made no mistake with the touchline conversion and then added the extras to tries from full-back Damian McKenzie and Barrett as New Zealand made it three wins from three in The Rugby Championship.

With the result going according to the formbook, neither the All Blacks or Argentina’s ranking was affected. New Zealand stay top on 95.21 points, over five clear of the chasing pack, while Los Pumas are 10th on 78.00 points exactly.